King's X
XV

King’s X is a band that has lived a tumultuous life. They’ve found themselves on the edge of mass success, all the while watching other bands of arguably lesser talent cross that edge into worldwide stardom. They’ve had people on both sides of the Christian rock debate give them hell over their lyrics (ie too Christian for some, not bold enough for others). They’ve been counted among the Top 100 Greatest Artists Of Hard Rock (VH1) while remaining relatively obscure. All the while, they’ve stayed true to themselves, making only the music they wanted to make at any given time. XV, their latest Michael Wager produced effort, is certainly no exception.One thing King’s X does not do, generally, is offer consecutive albums that are too similar to each other. For all intents & purposes, XV is unlike the last few records, yet still very, very King’s X. The dense, bass-heavy grooves are in full force. The stark, poetic lyrics & passionate vocals (not only from bassist Dug Pinnick, but also guitarist Ty Tabor and, for the first time since 1996’s Ear Candy, drummer Jerry Gaskill) are abundant. Much of the record has a rollicking, live energy. But a few things have changed…again.

Let’s talk vocally, first. The harmonies this time around seem a little more “gang chorus” style than meticulously layered. This doesn’t sound bad at all, mind you. Especially on one of Ty’s turns at the mic, “Repeating Myself”. The backing vocals in this one truly soar. Where as in opening track “Pray”, they sound like a live sing-along. While we’re on the subject of Tabor, where are the solos? The man is a genius guitarist and certainly has every right to lay off the noodling if he so chooses. But, come on…some of these tunes are just begging for some great lead work. There are little licks in “Julie” (Gaskill’s vocal song), and some nice melodic layering in “Blue”, but if you’re waiting on the heartfelt yet technical leads of past records, they’ve simply been left off of this one. Just the mood they were in I suppose.

But, what is the true heart of a King’s X album? That’s right boys and girls…the songs. The songs tell the tale and on XV, the songs are there. From the hand-clapping, head-banging groove of “Pray” & “Go Tell Somebody”, to the up-tempo jam of “Alright” (one of those “please solo!” moments), we have plenty of candidates for some stirring concert moments. Melancholy songs like “I Just Want To Live”, “I Don‘t Know” & the aforementioned “Repeating Myself” all benefit from meaningful vocal performances from Ty. The first of these listed offers one of the only true guitar solos on the album, which makes it stand out all the more. The song “Move” sounds like the band are channeling one of their very early influences, Irish megastars U2. Other songs, like “Rocket Ship”, “Stuck” & “Broke” don’t stray too far from the King’s X sound of the last ten years or so.

Taking left turns can be dangerous. While longtime fans come to expect it, the changes from record to record can still be a bit startling. But I’ve said it before, and I know I’ll say it again, good songwriters write good songs, regardless of style. In that context, XV is yet another in a long line of quality releases from a truly great American Rock band.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Shawn Pelata
May 5th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: Mike Marshall

    Shawn, your review is spot on. This is what endears King’s X to me. Everytime I listen to their new releases for the first time….I always find myself saying WTF? Then after the second and third time listened to…..I say oh yeah…….definately King’s X. Always a fan, Mike.


  2. Commented by: Shawn Pelata

    Thanks Mike…this one actually had me worried because it was the first time I was no immediately enamoured with a King’s X album…but it grew and now I’m a fan of this one like I am all the others. KX always, Shawn.


  3. Commented by: Jeff

    Hi from Belgium! Since the day I’ve seen King’s X in a small local club here in Belgium, rockin’ more than two hours in front of 150 persons, i have the greatest respect for these great musicians, their simplicity, their honesty(and I am an atheist far from their religious preocupations) and overall their musical talent : one of the best singer of the whole rock and roll history and a HUGE bass player ; one of the most instersting and less boring guitar player and a drummer who does not need a monster drum kit to develop a powerful and sensible play… Well, XV, maybe is not their best album (but what could be better than Dogman, for example ?)but still much above of all the mainstream shit. I do really appreciate the review from Shawn.


  4. Commented by: Jeff

    … and sorry for my bad english…


  5. Commented by: tim yates

    very well written review. i might beg to differ with the no guitar solos on this one, or u actually did say there was one or two. but you forgot to mention the awesome guitar work in the last song ‘No Lie’, actually regarded as a bonus track. Ty definately shows that master musicianship on this one in my opinion. I was actually disappointed with their last release (Ogre Tones), thought it was one of their worst albums (not that they have any albums one could call bad, just not as good). The new album captured my attention from the first listen and soon won me over musically. Chalk up another great album from one of he greatest bands ever.


  6. Commented by: J

    My band MEAN VENUS is playing with Kings X on July 27th, 2008 @ the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. Very psyched and honored. We are also a three piece with lead singer/bassist. All comparisons pretty much stop there though. More straightforward hard rock thing going on. Check it out: http://meanvenus.com.

    See ya there!!!

    J


  7. Commented by: Jeff Kent

    King’s X is one of those bands that you can love so much it hurts. I’m glad they soldier on despite everything that stands in their way. XV is another great addition to their catalog and while not instantly catchy it will grow on you like a fungus. As far as Ty’s solos go Ty says more in a few notes than most guitarists say with 5 minutes of wankery.

    If you have not seen King’s X live you are truly missing out on one of the best and most heartfelt shows in Rock.


  8. Commented by: Max

    What a great band! i enjoy every new record they make. the groove is fantastic, the melodies and vocal lines are great. King’s X is a very inspirational band for me.


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